Tuesday, May 25, 2010

State Audit Reveals Issues With District Compliance

The Washington State Auditor's office released a report yesterday on the district's compliance with federal grant funding. What pops into my head constantly when this kind of thing appears is "We're in 2010 and we still have these issues." We have Moss-Adams report, the CAICEE report and now the State Auditor's report (again) and yet, it still happens. That it happens this regularly makes you wonder. From the audit:

In our 2004 and 2007 audits, we notified District management of these requirements, and in our audit of fiscal year 2008 we reported noncompliance with federal procurement requirements. These conditions have not been resolved.

These are grants for Special Education, Native American programs, and others. Some of the issue is that the district is not going out and getting bids or proposals from multiple vendors as is required and don't have records to support claims of doing so. From the audit:

Special Education: We examined eight personal service contracts totaling $1,172,328 charged to Special Education grants. The District could not provide documentation to show these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Indian Education: We examined two personal service contracts totaling $14,603 charged to the Indian Education grant. The District could not provide documentation to show the contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Head Start: We examined four personal service contracts totaling $217,982 charged to the Head Start grant. The District could not provide documentation to show these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Title I: We examined six personal service contracts totaling $175,998 charged to the Title I grant for private tutoring services. The District could not provide documentation showing these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Cause of Condition

District staff was unaware of federal requirements related to procurement. The District also did not follow previous audit recommendations.

Effect of Condition

By not complying with federal procurement requirements, the District cannot ensure contracts paid with federal funds are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. By not retaining appropriate supporting documentation, the District cannot demonstrate other providers were unable to supply the necessary personal services before it selected vendors. Therefore, it is possible other providers were not provided an opportunity to compete for these contracts, which can affect contract price and quality of service.

But again, how many years before the district has a streamlined and efficient method of operating? It almost seems like they got frozen in time at some point and are continually struggling to keep up.

Brief Overview of each Finding

Indian Education Grant - The District claimed 1,123 in its 2008-2009 grant application and received $233,792. In 2007, the U.S. Department of ed found that the district's number of eligibility forms on file did not match the number of students counted. The district provided 927 eligibility forms but only 377 were valid. There was also a finding that they did not created the parent committee required by the grant, a finding initially discovered in 2007.

Special Education (IDEA)

This is for a Safety Net award. The district received about $460K in 2008-2009 but there were two students who left the district but the district kept the money. The district claimed it thought that OSPI automatically changed the grant amount if a student withdrew from the district.

Title 1
The district had one paraprofessional who did not meet the highly qualified requirement. The district did report this to OSPI. (The employee had earned $31,455 during 2008-2009.) The district said it wasn't aware of the requirement and thought this employee was providing services not related to Title 1. An additional finding was that the district had 73 teachers who did not meeting the highly qualified teacher requirements (but none of them taught Title 1 classes). This one seems like a genuine human error on the district's part and not a big deal. The odd thing is that the reason it occurred is that a teacher resigned and they put in an IA instead of a teacher.

Education State Grants

These are grants to boost funding from K- college. The district had received a one-time sum of $19.8M in 2009. Of that, $12.5M was spent on salaries and $4.1M on benefits. The district had put in a new payroll system in 2008. Apparently this new system can't detect overpayments to employees funded by these grants. Because of this, the Auditor was unable to determine how many employees were overpaid so how much was lost here is unknown. They were only able to identify one employee who was overpaid by $40K (and the charge to the grant was $8k). A Special Report will be issued later this year on district's salary overpayments. (The cause here of the overpayments?

When it switched to the new system, District staff members manually entered employee pay codes into the new system. No one did a review to ensure they were correct. Therefore, the District’s controls were insufficient to detect and correct errors in a timely manner.

Internal Controls in Accounting

This one is pretty troubling.

District staff members did not have adequate knowledge of and experience with prescribed financial reporting requirements. Staff did not use the Accounting Manual for Public School Districts in the State of Washington for guidance and information related to capital asset transactions, and recorded them incorrectly.

In fiscal year 2009, the District processed more than $330 million in payroll. We noted that when District changed its payroll system in 2008, it did not update its internal controls to address the increased risks of error or inappropriate entries related to manual data entry. Therefore, the District’s controls over this payroll

Financial statement preparation

District management is responsible for ensuring annual financial reports are accurate, complete, and comply with reporting requirements. However, the District relies on our audit to identify errors in the financial statements and notes, rather than dedicating the necessary staff time, training and other resources to ensure annual financial reports are accurate and complete.

Payroll Processing

During the payroll system conversion, District staff members manually entered employee pay codes into the new system. No one reviewed these to ensure individual pay rates were the rates shown in the signed employee contracts.

The effects of this lack of oversight are that buildings were reported as "equipment". Salaries and benefits for General Fund were reported int he Capital Projects Funds. Capital accounts payable of $1.6M were in the General Fund. The district also overstated its total unreserved,undesignated fund balance. For Payroll,

At least 150 employees were paid at a higher placement on the pay scale than their contracts supported. Thus far, a total of $335,000 has been identified as overpaid. This is the result of a systemic issue.

The district admits fault in every case but this isn't the first time for many of these issues that they have been told that they are not in compliance. That the Auditor's office thinks the district is relying on the state audits to find their mistakes rather than doing it themselves is troubling.

15 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Time to FIRE someone who runs the show

with cause... Bye Bye Superintendent.

Sean98125 said...

Looks like our finance team was taught using Discovering Math.

seattle citizen said...

Educators, check your paystubs. Some were overpaid, so odds are some must have been underpaid.

Who will find out who was overpaid and who was underpaid?

If they ever try using merit pay, that'll be a hoot: "This teacher DESERVED this $823,621.00! That teacher DESERVED $1.69!"

Meg said...

I really, really, really wish that I could say that this all comes as a huge surprise to me.

dan dempsey said...

Remember that the Superintendent received a $5,280 bonus in the midst of this fiasco.

Merit pay what a great idea.
So nice of the Board to Model this for us.

Recall petition is drastically needed to recall 4 school board members.

dan dempsey said...

If any of this crap was going down in a business heads would be rolling.

Hey it is only parents and kids....
Thus three superior court Judges could give a rip as to enforcing the legal standard for School Board decision making.

As for State Audits and following correct procedures well clearly NO WAY.

The level of incompetence or is it corruption is shocking but hardly surprising.

Charlie Mas said...

This audit finding will be a factor in the Superintendent's performance evaluation, right?

She is, after all, the chief executive of the District. Her work is primarily administrative, not academic. She is supposed to keep the operation running smoothly more than she is responsible for academic outcomes. After all, people keep telling me that teacher effectiveness is the primary school-based determinant of academic outcomes - not anything the superintendent does.

This audit finding will be a factor in the CFO's performance evaluation, right? And it will color the confidence that the Board has in his statements about the budget, right?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hadn't really thought I needed to e-mail the Board with this but now I wonder if they even know. Hmm.

Michael said...

Yes, the Board knows.

Michael said...

"That the Auditor's office thinks the district is relying on the state audits to find their mistakes rather than doing it themselves is troubling."

Troubling? Yes. Indicative of incompetence? Yes. Indicative of a District "leadership" that doesn't give a rip? Oh, HECK yes!

ttln said...

So, when do they lose control of the money? At what point does the state take action?

Michael said...

"At what point does the state take action?"

When they screw finances up so bad that the state (OSPI) has to take it over, or the County has to pay the District's bill.

The auditor cannot take action (lack of authority). They can only report. My boss was asking the same question about our employer (to remain nameless)

Charlie Mas said...

Here is the District's press release regarding the State Auditor's report.

It's not credible.

I like the reference to a survey that suggests "public confidence that the district’s resources are being spent wisely has increased steadily since 2006" Two points: 1) the District doesn't believe surveys. 2) despite the steady increase, the public's confidence remains very low.

The press release claims that "no material instances of non-compliance were found". Really? Hmmm. So what would they call the errors that were found?

I think it is interesting that the press release quotes Dr. Goodloe-Johnson as saying "we are committed to having controls in place that catch errors and correct them quickly" when that's exactly what the State Auditor's report says they are NOT doing. The State Auditor's reports says that the District relys on the State Auditor to catch errors.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The press release claims that "no material instances of non-compliance were found". Really? Hmmm. So what would they call the errors that were found?"

I actually tried to look this up (with little success) but I infer that it is a technical term in accounting that seems to imply that "material" means they knew they were not complying rather than they are just ignorant.

Basically, it's the district trying to cover themselves.

Michael said...

From Wikipedia (not the best source, I know, but...)

"Materiality, a concept or convention within auditing and accounting, relating to the importance/significance of an amount, transaction, or discrepancy. The objective of an audit of financial statements is to enable the auditor to express an opinion whether the financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in conformity with an identified financial reporting framework such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The assessment of what is material is a matter of professional judgment.

"Information is material if its omission or misstatement could influence the economic decision of users taken on the basis of the financial statements. Materiality depends on the size of the item or error judged in the particular circumstances of its omission or misstatement. Thus, materiality provides a threshold or cut-off point rather than being a primary qualitative characteristic which information must have if it is to be useful."

"In government auditing, the political sensitivity to adverse media exposure often concerns the nature rather than the size of an amount, such as illegal acts, bribery, corruption and related party transactions. Qualitative materiality is therefore likely to be more important in government auditing than in private sector auditing. Qualitative materiality refers to the nature of a transaction or amount and includes many financial and nonfinancial items that, independent of the amount, may influence the decisions of a user of the financial statements."

So when the District says the amounts are not material, they are referring to the effect on their financial statements. And they appear to be correct. But informed users of those statements, such as the folks on this blog, understand that although the nominal amounts are immaterial, the reasons for those mistakes occuring is the real issue.

Incompetence.